CINCINNATI: Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods giant, is producing an increasing amount of original digital content, as it seeks to connect with consumers using a range of tools that go beyond more traditional forms of marketing communications.
The world's biggest advertiser created some of the first examples of product placement with series like Ma Perkins, launched on radio in 1933, and Guiding Light, which ran on radio and TV for over seven decades, before being cancelled earlier this year.
However, while the owner of Tide and Dawn once produced more than 20 daytime television shows, its only remaining property in this area is Asthe World Turns, which has been aired on CBS since 1956.
By contrast, one of its most recent initiatives, A Parent is Born, takes the form of a 12-part online reality series, following the lives of two parents from the early stages of pregnancy until their child is born.
Each "webisode", which is sponsored by Pampers, the FMCG titan's diaper brand, is between four and five minutes long, and covers a different challenge facing couples preparing to have a baby.
Alongside being available on Pampers' website, the company is considering syndicating this content so that is accessible via other online properties, while half an hour of this material was also shown on DirecTV in August this year.
Pat Gentile, national television programming manager at Procter & Gamble Productions, said "we literally moved from radio to TV, and now we're in the digital world. We're putting our focus on creating digital content."
In further evidence of this, the Cincinnati-based corporation has developed a website, Dinner Tool, in partnership with NBC Digital Networks, which aims to help families "solve the never-ending ‘what's for dinner' dilemma."
This service, which also has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, carries little formal P&G branding, and offers features such as recipes and a meal planner, in an effort to form an online community for mothers.
According to Gentile, this kind of activity "fits nicely with our brands," particularly with regard to cleaning products like Cascade, Dawn and Joy.
Similarly, P&G and NBC's Petside.com contains a range of information for bird, cat and dog owners, such as a "breed finder" and advice on animal health and wellness.
Gentle reported this site, which also boasts an iPhone application – the Pet Vet App – currently receives over 1 million "hits" every month.
One main advantage of this sort of strategy, he added, is that "people believe you more. They don't feel like you're trying to shove something down their throats."
Chris Allen, a marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati, flagged up another major benefit, as using the internet in this way also allows the CPG firm to collect the email addresses of visitors.
"A big part of the whole agenda is building that marketing database," he said, meaning the company can use this audience for research purposes and promotional activity.
More broadly, he argued Procter & Gamble's overall approach is "about providing content that attracts specific communities of users. It's the future of marketing."
Data sourced from Cincinnati Enquirer; additional content by WARC staff